Extended Landscape — Broadening Student Culture @ UC Berkeley Extension's Landscape Architecture Program — Exland.org
John Breglio, Student ASLA; George Chacon, Student ASLA; Jessica Forys, Student ASLA and Charles Stewart, Student ASLA, Graduate, University of California, Berkeley
Faculty Advisor: Patricia Algara
UC Berkeley Extension's unique Landscape Architecture program caters to a diverse student body. With most students commuting from around the Bay Area, a group of enterprising students created Extended Landscape, Exland.org, a social/ learning media website, to link students and faculty and, in turn, creating a vibrant truly Virtual Campus. The site, popular among the students, provides a resource for members to communicate and collaborate, as well as to view and promote highly original work.
—2011 Student Awards Jury
Our physical environment profoundly shapes our learning experiences.
The college community where students have benefit of a large and dedicated campus and reside in close proximity to their class mates in or around this campus is a conventional scenario and one that most people are familiar with. What about students whose campus is a densely packed urban setting and who therefore may not have the benefit of a large and dedicated infrastructure or campus and who don’t necessarily live in close proximity to the campus? And what if those students are in a program that is by necessity highly collaborative and interactive? This is both the case and the challenge faced by the students and instructors at the UC Berkeley Extension Art and Design campus in the heart of San Francisco; and was the motivating factor behind the creation of the Extended Landscape Social networking site. (www.exland.org).
Extended Landscape or ExLand.org is an online social network site designed to create a stronger sense of community among the dynamic – but disparate – students and faculty in the Landscape Architecture program at the Art and Design campus. The website fills the social and educational collaboration gap caused by the large geographic coverage area, and the nature of a program operating mostly during weeknights and weekends. After a beta testing period of several months, the site was officially launched in April of 2010. Tirelessly run by four students, the site has been quickly accepted by students, professors and administrative staff, and has grown to 125 members. It offers a variety of resources and opportunities for members to communicate, collaborate and participate, as well as provide a living and growing resource recording the work that members of the community create. As well as comments advice and guidance of instructors which it is hoped will provide value to students in coming years
Since the initial launch, the site has evolved to provide expanded capabilities to members, and now allows them to craft portions of the site to suit their needs and goals, like the "My Page" or "Class Groups" tabs. The home page serves as the program hub where members can quickly review current news, events, blogs and graphic communications - such as student portfolios, photos of a particular landscape work, such as Lawrence Halprin’s remodeling of Stern Grove or photographic "field notes" taken by a student while on a class excursion. It also provides the ability for students to utilize a "corner" of the site as a workspace. This virtual studio or huddle room is popular because small groups can instantly connect and communicate in real-time to explore thoughts and ideas together when meeting together in a physical studio is not feasible. The collage of various elements engages and inspires guests to participate and contribute in a safe and comfortable environment.
ExLand.org also provides a popular feature known as the virtual Through this feature, members are able to post questions to a wide audience of experts who can then provide knowledgeable support, advice, and resources. Another popular feature is the site’s "Class Groups" tab. Students and professors form a private community for a specific class that serves as an extended platform to communicate throughout a semester. Students are especially fond of this feature because they can ask questions to their fellow students about a range of topics such as topics about a particular class’ lecture or how to properly calculate the slope of a ramp. Prior to the start of each semester, the Exland.org editors, create the class groups for each class. At the start of the class, each student joins the group and the professors post the syllabus and use this post to materials. This is viewable by all the students and provides a great source of inspiration and pride.
The "Features" tab offers a glimpse of the more polished side of the site, where professors and students alike contribute professional quality material, such as essays, research papers and book excerpts. This portion of the site has become a library of sorts where members can read up on the latest material written by their peers. Currently featured is an article written by Michael Lamb, an historic Landscape Architect, describing his work for the Presidio Trust. He describes the challenges and thoughts behind the decisions made to restore this historic landmark. Also in this area, are original editorial content and book excerpts. One of the editors of Exland.org had the privilege to interview Chip Sullivan and Elizabeth Boults, focusing on their new collaborative book Illustrative History of Landscape Design.
Leveraging the concepts and technology of social networks, members are inspired to contribute their own original work. With most of our community on the go, it is easy for members to download a paper to enjoy offline while commuting to school or while taking a break at work.
The "My Page" feature allows users to customize their ExLand.org experience. Members can arrange blocks of material to read in any way they prefer, as well as add profile information such as occupation, interests, personal goals and a "get-to-know-you" questionnaire that is a standard (and fun) feature on all profiles. In addition, members can add a variety of Apps to increase the interactive and functional aspects of their own pages. Popular Apps include polls, document sharing calendars, collaborative spaces, professional development, job boards, video sharing, and more. Members can also create a Friends list to remain linked with classmates, professors and acquaintances.
Today, the site continues to grow in terms of membership, member usage, and popularity. Celebrating its one-year anniversary, students have come to rely on the site and have made it a part of their daily learning experience. They enjoy the connections they make through the site and are grateful for the wealth and quality of information they can access through ExLand.org. With the personalization features of the site, members create a unique and personable experience as they create a haven as they explore, collaborate, and grow at their own pace. Since its inception, ExLand.org has positively impacted the way students learn at UC Berkeley Extension’s Landscape Architecture program – ever broadening and unifying a commuter student culture.
"I am writing in support of the incredible communications tool that UC Berkeley Extension students have developed. Extended Landscape provides a meaningful and important online forum of ideas and information for a non-traditional academic program in which social and professional connections are difficult to maintain…
Their efforts have transformed our program, providing valuable opportunities for students, faculty and practitioners to interact and build a shared sense of community.
Extended Landscape is a dynamic and effective resource, one which I highly recommend to you."
Additional Project Credits
Testimonial: Elizabeth Boults, ASLA
Instructor, UC Berkeley Extension-Certificate Program in Landscape Architecture